It may have taken 20 minutes for the No. 19 Florida Gators to find some defensive intensity on Saturday, but once they did it was off to the races as Florida (14-4, 2-1 SEC) topped the South Carolina Gamecocks (8-9, 0-3 SEC) 79-65 to pick up their first true road victory of the season at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC.
With Gators sophomore center Patric Young coming off the bench due to tendinitis and an ankle injury, sophomore forward Will Yeguete stepped in and scored a career-high 14 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting with a team-high eight rebounds (four offensive).
Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton posted a team-high 15 points but was only 5-of-13 from the field, hitting 4-of-7 attempts from downtown while adding three boards and three dimes for the Gators. He and Yeguete were two of six Florida players (including all five starters) to score in double figures on the evening.
Junior F Erik Murphy got UF to a hot start, scoring the team’s first five points in 76 seconds. After USC evened the score out, the teams went back-and-forth for a few minutes until an 8-0 run put the Gators ahead 26-18 with 9:26 remaining until the break.
The Gamecocks provided their answer at the end of the half, using a 10-2 scoring advantage lasting over three minutes to take a 41-37 lead.
As the shot clock wound down on Florida’s final possession, Boynton nailed an off-balance trey as the buzzer sounded, leaving just five seconds remaining in the first half. It helped to negate South Carolina’s half-ending run, giving USC just a one-point lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms.
Freshman G Bradley Beal posted eight of those 14 points by hitting two three-pointers and a pair of free throws during the impressive run.
The Gators and Gamecocks traded buckets the rest of the way as UF earned their first true road win of the season after dropping contests against Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee away from home.
Florida shot lights-out all evening from downtown, connecting on 12-of-23 attempts (52.2 percent) while also knocking in 25-of-47 shots (53.2 percent) from the field and hitting 17-of-21 tries (81.0 percent) from the free throw line.
The Gators’ defense held the Gamecocks to 41.1 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from three; however, USC outrebounded UF 28-25 in the game and 14-6 on the offensive glass while outscoring Florida 14-8 in the paint.
Beal added to the Gators’ totals with 14 points and six boards, Murphy chipped in 11 points and four assists, senior point guard Erving Walker was an efficient 3-of-5 (3-for-4 from downtown) with 11 points and seven assists, and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario scored 10 points with a pair of boards and dimes while played 19 minutes off the bench.
South Carolina G Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks with 17 points.
Florida will have a full week to celebrate the victory as the Gators do not suit up again until they host LSU next Saturday in Gainesville, FL. The game will air live at 6 p.m. on FOX Sports Network (check your local listings).